REPORT: MARCH 8, 2022, 6:30 A.M. I don’t yet know the news from afar. Here, the backyard is a sheet of ice. In the low spot in the drive, the gravel has washed away, leaving a narrow ditch. Before sunrise, the sky is gray and yellow. All the undones of autumn poke through the grubby snow. A rabbit scrounges for seed under the bird feeder. The dog looks out the window and begins to scream at a squirrel. Coffee’s good. The north wind is rising.
cap rigid lemon peer draw meadow
SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020
Like a drawing by Van Gogh,
I stand rigid in the meadow. I wear my white cap.
I peel a lemon, and peer at the trees.
I wear my white cap
though the brim is too rigid
for me to bend against the lemon-
brightness of the sun. I stand alone, peer
into the middle distance like a drawing
by Van Gogh of a woman in a meadow.
It is August, and the earth is dry. The meadow
crackles with brown grasses capped
with seeds. The summer draws
to a close. Have we yet let go our rigid
sense of what is real? My peers
cannot guess. News sours me, like lemon.
When I was young, I wore lemon
cologne. I lay in this meadow
beside a man—my peerless
lover—who wore a Greek fishing cap.
But our bones have gone rigid
with the years. We have drawn
living water so long. Now we draw
water grown bitter, like lemon
rind, and brackish, from a rigid
bottle. A butterfly wavers over the meadow
searching for one plant to cap
with one pale egg. I peer
at her with shaded eyes, my only peer
now in this tight-drawn
season, this heated season, capped
with grasses the color of dried lemon
peel. Under my feet, the meadow
soil is hard, cracked, rigid
with the hard rigidity
of this rainless summer, a peerless
summer of an anxiety that a meadow
cannot know. The trees live on, drawing
their life from deeper water. The lemon
sun beats and beats on my white cap.
joy exhaust chorus toll appear trunk
SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS
The steamer trunk might have been my grandfather’s,
but I don’t remember seeing it in
his dark little room that smelled like old clocks.
If I sit for a long time in this chair
the right words will appear. Like magic.
Despite the evidence, I still believe
that. Believing in anything now takes
a toll. There doesn’t seem to be a god,
for instance, who gives a shit about us.
It’s August. The dawn chorus is over
for the year. Sometimes, one dusty robin
lands on the lawn and hops around. The worms
have burrowed down under. Everyone is
exhausted by the heat, the drought, the plague,
waiting and waiting for some kind of relief.
My grandfather had a small life, and yet
he made himself a bit of joy. Magic tricks.
Walks. Old friends. Keeping all those clocks ticking.
ANOTHER ZUIHITSU because I have to write something
It’s as if someone is deliberately making things so bad that nobody can stand it. Almost enough to make me believe in the Beast, the AntiChrist, or something like that.
We hoard dark roasted coffee beans in little brown bags in the freezer. I think I have enough now.
I’ve been trying not to look at the news every hour, but I can’t help it. It’s the only way I can participate, living here, in this little green bowl.
Chipmunks live under the front steps. They scurry out to get food, scurry back in for fear of hawks and weasels and our dog. But they’re never safe from weasels.
A very satisfying conputer game: drag random clusters of jewels into rows and columns on a board laid out in squares. When I place a cluster, I hear a lovely “click.” When I complete a row or column, I hear a very satisfying “ping.” I can’t stop playing this game even though it makes my neck sore.
I had to get coffee beans out of the freezer last night. They were so hard that I couldn’t grind them till this morning. I know that some people don’t like to freeze beans, and some people say one should grind the beans right before brewing, but I don’t care.
I have painted a piece of cardboard with a color called “Tea Room”—one of those small samples of paint available for a dollar at the paint store. When the paint was dry, I drew square tiles with a black marker and installed it in the cardboard box castle we made to illustrate fairy tales for the grandchildren.
The Great Crested Flycatcher sits on a high perch to hunt for insects. If she misses an insect on her first pass, she pursues it in the air. Unless her nestlings object, she offers the whole insect, wings and all. If they do object, she pummels the insect until the offending wings break off.
Many twigs, new-leafed, blew off the trees last night in the wind. When I walked the dog down the driveway early this morniung, I picked them up—at least, most of them—and tossed them back among the trees so they wouldn’t have to dry and turn to dust on the driveway stones.
POET IN GARRET, NOVEMBER
~attributed to Jan Vermeer, 1703
You see at once that she’s cold,
the way she hunches
over the table in the fireless
room. Light from one small
window slants across her page.
She is half-turned toward you,
her lips are parted, her eyes
focused on a word appearing
just above your right shoulder.
ALL SOULS: THE WITCH
~The Kilkenny Book of Hours, c. 1410
Outside, a half moon, waning.
Inside she sits by the fire,
gray cat on her lap.
Her clothes are unremarkable
and her long gray hair is unbound
and mingles with the cat’s fur.
On the plain table, a wooden
bowl of apples. Garlic
and onions hang on pegs.
A single dove shelters
on a rafter. A sudden wind
blows open the door.
The best snow in years,
simple and perfect.
It didn’t last long.
And now, rain. Snow to slush
to ice. I tried to tell
my old friend that winter
here is beautiful,
tried to get her to go out in the cold
and sun and the diamond air.
She always said that clouds
made her dizzy.
on a sunny morning before
the rain began.
Not a cloud in the sky.
~Remembering S.M., 10/1927-1/2019
IT’S A WINDY DAY
Mother Hölle’s coiling up thin threads of whirling rain. Tick, I hear her reel click. Deer on tiptoe carve a twisty path to the curving creek where swallows gyre at hatching flies encircling boys who cast and spool at trout turning through water’s whorl. In the spinning sky, silk dragons entwine, their tails entangle in the wind.
June 5, 2009
This snowstorm’s not exactly late,
In fact, they happen all the time.
This sort of thing’s what we expect
For living in a Northern clime.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean
It’s something we appreciate–
Wouldn’t it be more comforting
If winter had a closing date?
Winter Prompt #11
Great spider, untangle
the threads you’ve spun.
Turn to dust the husks of bees
and flies sucked dry.
Bits of leaf and fur let fall
and in the dark a new web weave
so in the dawn’s light
we may see the shining shape
of all set free.
Audmula lick us from the ice,
Skadi, hunt up the sun,
free us from this Niflheim.
Bragi, loosen my tongue.